measuretapesxLet’s say you’re the customer of a big supplier. You’ve implemented an EDI connection with them, but you’re having a problem reconciling their invoices. It seems the unit of measure (UOM) you send isn’t matching on the invoice. Why?

In many cases, your supplier or manufacturer partner should have no problem returning the correct UOM. If you buy products on the ‘direct’ side for resale or manufacturing purposes, you’re purchasing a limited number of SKUs likely governed by contract. UOMs are one aspect of item information that you’ve agreed upon and the level of risk resulting from a mistake is large. If you order a freight car full of steel to build machinery and your source sends you a single sheet, you have a big problem. Chances are you’re in agreement all down the line on every detail related to what you’ll be ordering.

How about on the indirect product side? You know, the stuff you buy to maintain your plant, keep the machinery running, ensure employee safety, and keep the environment clean and organized? Generally, these purchases are unplanned, what you buy is rarely the same every time, and your major suppliers have thousands of SKUs in their systems. You added an EDI connection with your most active MRO suppliers, but this may be the origin of your UOM problem. Although the products and quantities they ship match what you expect, the UOMs on their invoice are different from what’s in your system.

At my previous employer, we had over 500,000 items in our catalog, all of them sold with UOM of ‘EA’. I wish I had a dollar for every UOM discussion I had with a customer (or seller). To address what many of them wanted us to do, we would have needed to build customer-specific UOM cross references for hundreds of thousands of products for thousands of electronic customers. That wasn’t a scalable option for us or, frankly, for the customer. We did creative things in the map for some (like storing the order UOM and returning it on the invoice in a REF), but in general there was nothing we could do other than send EA.

If you’re aware of a discrepancy between UOMs, what can you do? Firstly, talk it over with your partner. Make sure you understand their limitations, and they know yours. Other ideas:

  • If you order a limited number of SKUs, see if they can maintain a cross reference.
  • Sync the items in your system to theirs by downloading their catalog or ‘punching out’ to their on-line catalog.
  • Again, if a limited number of items, set up a UOM cross reference on your side.
  • If the problem is only with UOM and not prices, ‘turn off’ UOM validation on the invoice.

Unfortunately, in some cases there is no elegant solution. If the supplier is important to you, though, you’ll need to find the path of least resistance to make your electronic connection pay off.

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